The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

The Decades of Conflict

Category: 18th century

Walpole thought it important to avoid foreign wars, and during his administration Great Britain was kept out of war, and even the relations with France re­mained cordial. That made some people in the Parlia­ment accuse him of pro-French foreign policy. In the late 1730′s, however, a war party emerged in Parlia­ment. Its members wanted to break the Spanish mono­poly of trade with Spanish colonists in both Americas and sought revenge against Spain for the maltreat­ment of a British seaman Captain Jenkins.

In 1739 Britain declared war on Spain, and in 1742 parliamentary pressure forced Walpole to resign. The conflict between Britain and Spain has been known as the War of Jenkins’s Ear (1739-1748).

Between 1739 and 1763, Great Britain was gener­ally at war. The War of Jenkins’s Ear soon merged with the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), in which Great Britain allied with Austria against Prus­sia, France, and Spain. British armies and ships fought the French in Europe, in North America, on the high seas, and in India, where the rivals, the English and French East India Companies, competed for influence.

The country being at war, the Scottish Jacobites decided to take advantage of it. In July 1745 they made their last major attempt to recover the British throne for the Stuart dynasty. Prince Charles Edward nick­named “Bonnie Prince Charlie” and also known as the Young Pretender landed in Scotland. Soon his army of Highlanders and other Jacobites captured Edinburgh and won the battle of Prestonpans. The first success encouraged Charles Edward to commence his march upon London. He came within a hundred miles of the British capital city, but failed to attract many English supporters. In December the Jacobite army had to re­treat to Scotland. On the 16th of April 1746 they were defeated at the battle of Culloden near Inverness by the government army led by Duke of Cumberland. That was a terrible military disaster: in less than an hour about one-fifth of the 5,000-strong Prince Charles Edward’s army was killed by 9,000-strong English army under Duke of Cumberland. This battle was the last one to be fought on the British soil. For five months Charles was on the run with a price of £30,000 on his head. In June 1846 he managed to fly to France.

The War of the Austrian Succession ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle signed on the 18th of October 1748. The treaty confirmed Maria Teresa’s succession to Habsburg territories and recognized the Hanoverian succession in Britain.

Still a lot of problems remained unsolved, and eight years later they resulted in a new war of 1756-1763 between Prussia, Great Britain, and Hanover on one side and Austria, France, Spain, Saxony, Sweden and Russia on the other.

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